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Sadie Griener
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SADIE GREINER Facilities Management engineer’s penchant for efficiency streamlines a multimillion-dollar operation.

It will not surprise anyone who knows Sadie Greiner that when she was interviewed for this article, her first words were “I don’t really understand why we’re talking about me.”

Sadie Greiner, senior engineer and associate director for planning, design, and construction in University of Iowa Facilities Management, does not count herself remarkable. Her colleagues and supervisors, however, definitely do.

“I am continually amazed by her energy, how much she is able to take on at once, and the high quality of her work,” says Don Guckert, associate vice president for finance and operations and director of Facilities Management. “In just the last few years, Sadie has transformed the way the whole organization manages construction contracts. She led our flood prevention and then flood recovery operations; she has overseen hundreds of construction contracts and projects totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. She’s been dealing with details, putting out fires, and preventing flare-ups daily.

“At the same time, she pursued and won an advanced degree and managed somehow to spend quality time with her young family. Yes, I’d say she’s remarkable.”

Greiner, a native of the small Iowa town of Sigourney, graduated from the UI College of Engineering in 1995 with a BS in civil engineering. In 1999, she began employment as a construction project manager in Facilities Management. In short order, Greiner was working to improve the way UI contracts were written, awarded, and managed.

“When Sadie sees something in her work that could be better, she is determined to improve it,” Guckert says.

Soon, she and her staff were overhauling the University’s entire construction contract program, which in the past five years has averaged $100 million each year. To better manage those contracts, she implemented a contract management software system designed to fit UI needs.

Called “Build Iowa,” the system collects data from each person involved in the hundreds of projects under way at Iowa at any given time and generates detailed reports specifically for them. Contractors, designers, budget officers, vendors, building coordinators, and others can easily see where each project is in its progress and what their responsibility is. The system frees UI architects and engineers from time-consuming record-management tasks so that they can pay attention to what’s important in a project.

“I see myself as facilitating information between the people responsible for a project,” Greiner says. “I tried to streamline the processes and arrange the information so that it is relevant to my customers.”

“Sadie is our built-in LEAN machine,” Guckert says, referring to the project management philosophy aimed at reducing waste and increasing efficiency. “There is on this campus a remarkable heartbeat of work going on all the time. It looks effortless, but everything has to come together at the right time, and Sadie and her talented staff make that happen in a number of ways.”

In 2008, when floodwaters were rising on campus, Greiner reached out to the contracting and engineering community for emergency assistance to help engineer and construct the physical protection of the campus. She was intimately involved in all of the many individual protection projects.

“She was the point of a spear in our efforts to protect the campus,” says Rod Lehnertz, director of planning, design, and construction. “When we were making quick decisions, I don’t know how many times I heard, ‘Just a minute, we need to check with Sadie.’ She was not just a resource, she was leading on the ground and she was leading the leaders.”

“Don and Rod can recall every day,” Greiner says. “I remember the day I had to say that we were stumped. We did not ever expect the water to go so high. Nevertheless, it was a great experience, working with my colleagues in Facilities Management, the contractors, the volunteers, the students. I saw people with blistered feet, working hard not just to fill sandbags, but to lift the spirits of those around them. The people, and the incredible effort they put forth, are among the finest memories I have.”

The river had barely crested when Greiner shifted her attention to recovery and the incredibly short time available to get the University’s largest residence hall, three classroom buildings, and the Main Library cleaned and operational for the start of the fall semester. That goal accomplished, she continued to work on other flood recovery projects, more than 20 of which continue to this day.

During the course of her “normal” job, including redesigning the project management system, overseeing hundreds of contract projects, and the additional work created by flood prevention and recovery, Greiner was pursuing an MBA degree at the Tippie College of Business, which she earned in May 2009.

Last fall, the Corridor Business Journal of Cedar Rapids/Iowa City named Greiner among the area’s “Forty Under 40” award honorees for 2009. The award recognizes leaders under the age of 40 who, early in their careers, have made a significant impact in their business or community or both. Greiner was honored at an October ceremony at the Cedar Rapids Marriott.

Asked about any of this recognition, Greiner is uneasy. “I didn’t do anything special. I only did as my mother taught me.”

Story by Charles S. Drum; photo by Tim Schoon

January 11, 2010